Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Trip to Powell's City of Books in Portland, plus Tons of Tidbits

Just this past weekend, my husband, son and I drove to Portland, Oregon for my annual pilgrimage to get books, and for my husband to retrieve his older brothers ashes, police report and death certificate.
I managed to take with me a large box of books and a bag of books for store credit, and I got over $110 to try and get my lengthy wish list fulfilled. I got all but one of the books, and was thrilled to get a package from the Science Fiction Book Club yesterday when we got home, so that adds three books to my towering stack of wonderful reading. I also got a "7 Year Pen" that purports to not run out of ink, guarenteed, for the next 7 years. Considering how much writing I do by hand, I plan on putting this white, bespeck-ed beauty to the test, ASAP.
Meanwhile, RIP Maeve Binchy, the lovely Irish author of "Circle of Friends" and dozens of other great books, who died on Sunday. She was 72.
Here's a ton of tidbits from Shelf Awareness that I've been saving:
"Without libraries, we'd be dumb,"http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13964715
sang Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman (co-authors of Why We Broke Up) in
their ode to libraries, which they performed during the American Library
Association's convention last month.

A perfect introduction to this brief tour of libraries that range from
large to small, and are sometimes located in unlikely spaces:
Searching for "libraries that were born from unused and abandoned
structures, from the large (drill halls and supermarkets) to the small
(phone booths and shipping containers)," Flavorwire highlighted "10
wonderful libraries repurposed from unused structures

In Bolton, Vt., the "prettily painted boxes on posts
look like oversized birdhouses--except they have glass doors that allow
passersby to see they are filled with books." The Burlington Free Press
noted that the project is an outgrowth of the Little Free Library
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13964718 movement that started in Wisconsin.

Bookyard, a vineyard-turned-outdoor-library
by Italian artist Massimo Bartolini in Ghent, Belgium, was also
showcased by Flavorwire.

I completely understand Robert Gray's lament here:
Robert Gray: Open Endings--The Art of the Unfinished Read
We're finished! I know we had fewer than a hundred pages remaining until
The End, but I can't go on like this. You were a fine book, with fully
developed major characters, engaging minor ones, a setting that
enveloped me in a deeply resonant sense of place and a plot that
unfolded dramatically. It's not you; it's me.

After a couple of decades in the book trade, I've become resigned to the
unfortunate reality that I often "bail out" of books--even those I'm
enjoying--for reasons rational and irrational. Maybe I lose a little
reader's momentum in the early chapters, or a potentially more
intriguing book comes along to tempt me; maybe the protagonist says
something that ticks me off or my to-be-read pile nags me into looking
for any excuse to head for the exit at intermission. Buffet reading was
part of the job description when I was a bookseller. It was a survival
tool. And yes, sometimes I even told a customer "I'm reading it" when I
had bailed long before.

An "unfinished" book is a different thing altogether because a much more
substantial commitment is required to reach the unfinishing point. If
bailing is a rational decision, unfinishing is subconscious and often

"There are lots of books I've never finished," Roddy Doyle
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13964756 has said. "But there's only
very few I've said I'm never going to finish, and a pile of books I'm
going to get around to finishing."

Interesting that they've applied a movie review format for book reviews here. I certainly wish some of the review services that I write for would apply this: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/idreambooks-applies-rotten-tomatoes-model-to-book-reviews_b54320

There are some awesome bookstores in America (and elsewhere)...take a look!
'10 Truly Unique Bookstores in America'
"Bookstores outside the mainstream give cities across America (and the
world!) a dose of local spice and build supportive communities of
like-minded individuals," observed the OnlineDegreet.net blog in
highlighting "10 Truly Unique Bookstores in America
The blog also noted that while "many of them do carry popular literature
from major publishers, their true calling lay with offering a haven for
hobbyists, professionals and fans from oft-ignored or overlooked
markets. And the United States is certainly better off because of it."

Another great idea:
From a delightful, thoughtful post on the Rumpus called "Bartending,
Booktending: Three Years at Red Hill Books
in which Michael Berger looks back on his three years working at the San
Francisco bookstore.

"Under most circumstances it would be considered rude to eavesdrop, a
rent in the fabric of urban etiquette in which strangers remain
strangers. But in a bookstore, the books themselves become
interlocutors. So does the bookseller, who becomes a hub of all possible
inter-stranger conversations because he or she is the one person who
people talk to first. The bookseller is a stranger you're encouraged to
talk to; then other people can overhear what you're talking about and
are invited to join in. In some sense, the bookseller can orchestrate an
unlimited amount of enriching encounters between strangers and between
strangers and herself. The purpose is to create camaraderie, which is
conducive to good business and good citizenship. And it makes the hours
more pleasant which is good for everyone.

"[One] time, quite miraculously, it turned out that three people in the
store who did not know each other at all had all lived at one time in
Newton, Massachusetts. This brought them together round my counter in a
swirl of laughter, awe and reminiscences. Street names and markets and
museums I had no clue about were savored. They all ended up buying
something too."

There has been a lot of buzz about this movie flying around the internet, and I plan on going to see it, if for no other reason than it looks fascinating, and yes, the extra-long trailer is worth the time you spend watching it:
Cloud Atlas: Extended Trailer a Big Draw for Book Sales
"And, boy, what a trailer," exclaimed Indiewire as it showcased a
six-minute trailer http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz14060547
for Cloud Atlas http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz14060548,
the adaptation of David Mitchell's novel by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
and Andy Wachowski. The film, which will make its world premiere at the
Toronto International Film Festival, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim
Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Bae Doona, David
Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D'Arcy and Hugo Weaving. The
movie will be released here October 26.

"As big fans of the book, we've wondered for some time if the filmmakers
would be able to come anywhere close to its material, but we have to
confess that this is pretty stunning, for the most part," Indiewire
noted. "The production values look incredibly high, the scope and
ambition and variety is like nothing else we've seen in a long time, and
the cast, aided by some excellent make-up, look to be rising to the

In addition to the trailer, 20 new images
from the movie, as well as a "motion poster," have been released,
"giving us a closer look at many of the cast members in their various
multiple roles," Indiewire wrote.

Being the HUGE fan of Glee that I am, I couldn't resist posting this--go Chris!
Fans of Chris Colfer packed the Joseph-Beth Booksellers store in
Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sunday, where the Glee actor signed copies of his
first novel, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers).

The store sold more than 800 copies of the book
according to the Community Press. "We would have sold even more if Chris
didn't have a plane to catch," Michael Link, Joseph-Beth's publisher
relations and events manager, said. Joseph-Beth celebrated Colfer's
presence in other ways: on Sunday, the store's Bronte cafe featured
Glee-inspired food, including slushies, a "Breadsticks Special,"
Mercedes's chili cheese tots and My Happy Happy Unicorn.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and The Lion is In by Delia Ephron

First, I need to post some items I've been collecting from Shelf Awareness:
I am thrilled an amazed that a new bookstore has opened in my native state of Iowa, and that it is in a place called "New Bohemia," which is hilarious if you know anything about Iowa, the least bohemian place in the US. Still, my mother is from a small town near Cedar Rapids, so I suppose a bunch of earthy hippy types could settle down there...they'd raise some eyebrows, but I imagine they will get along well with the younger generation.

Congratulations to New Bo Books http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13879446, which held a grand opening last Saturday that was dubbed "an enormous success by owner Mary Ann Peters on the shop's Facebook page. A division of Iowa City's Prairie Lights http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13879448, the bookshop is located in the historic New Bohemia http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13879449
neighborhood of Cedar Rapids, at 1105 3rd St. SE.

Due to my husband's need to drag me into the 21st century, I own a Nook, which I don't use much, but now it appears I need not have gotten one at all, since Barnes and Noble has designed an interface for reading books on iMac computers.
Barnes & Noble has unveiled Nook for Web
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13942297, a
browser-based platform that allows people to read B&N's digital titles
on their PC or Mac computers. No sign-in, software download or Nook
account is required to begin reading. The company also noted that
support would be coming this fall for Internet-enabled tablets,
smartphones and other mobile devices.

To promote Nook for Web, B&N is offering six Nook books that can be
downloaded free on any browser through July 26: Map of Bones by James
Rollins, Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell, The Vow by Kim Carpenter,
The Boxcar Children Summer Special by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Brave by
Tennant Redbank and Perfect Island Getaways by Patricia Schultz.

This is such an honest quote that it reverberated through me as a truism:
It's from The Hours by Michael Cunningham,
in Virginia Woolf's first section: "It is more than the sum of her
intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though
it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three. It is an inner
faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it
is made of the same substance, and when she is very fortunate she is
able to write directly through that faculty."

This made me laugh, because I believe that independent bookstores need to be tough to survive in this terrible economy: "Badass ninjas survive. I think independent booksellers will survive and
if you don't want to help them, then that's fine. I will. And a lot of
other badass people will, too. But in case you're an author and you
never realized just how important they are... or in case you have one in
your town and you never really realized that they were helping your
community by just being there and having the gonads to operate, then I
hope this post helped you see that."

--Author A.S. King in her Writer Unboxed blog post headlined "All the
Badass Ninjas Hang Out at Planet Independent Bookstore http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13953818

I read "Beautiful Ruins" over a 10 day period because it is, for all its popular contemporary fiction attributes, a densely written novel, full of sly truths and profound wisdom that isn't immediately evident, but instead sneaks up on the reader and pounces when they least expect it.
It's the story of an American starlet who gets pregnant by a famous actor during the 1960s and flees to Italy, where she meets Pasquale, the owner of the "Adequate View" hotel, and Alvis Bender, a man fleeing his memories of the war, who is attempting to write a book, but never gets farther than one excellent chapter. We also meet the other crazy Italians who live in nearby villages and we meet Michael Deane, a Hollywood film producer and his unlucky assistant, Claire. Then there is Shawn, a niave man who wants to sell a script on cowboy cannibals to Dean, and Pat, the starlet's son, who is, until the end of the book, a total junkie screw-up. Author Walter deftly weaves these people's stories together, from the cynical to the ridiculous, in a satisfying tapestry that seethes with vibrant life, crushed dreams, hopes, fears, love and redemption. Though there were some moments that dragged a bit, the book was well worth sliding over those parts to get to the good stuff, the revelations and HEAs. I'd recommend this book to anyone fascinated by Europe in the 1960s, or by what really goes on in the mind of those sleazy Hollywood producers and directors. An A-, mainly for the draggy bits.

"The Lion is In" by Delia Ephron was an amazingly fast read, a sort of "Thelma and Loiuse" meets "Water For Elephants" and any other road trip, life-changing novel you've ever read. The story is about Lana and Tracee, two best friends who've been raising one another since childhood, due to a couple of horrible absentee parents on Tracee's side, and an alcoholic absentee mother on Lana's side. Tracee becomes a kleptomaniac to deal with her abandonment, and Lana becomes an alcoholic who finally betrays the only person she loves, her father, when she steals all of his money to go on a disastrous bender. Tracee and Lana flee their small town after Tracee steals a diamond necklace and a wedding dress, and the duo encounter Rita, a ministers wife fleeing her rigidly conformist life and domineering husband, on the road to nowhere. After Lana crashes their car, the three gals find a broken-down bar that has an old, broken-down lion caged inside, and  once they decide to work at the bar to earn enough to fix the car and continue their road trip, lives begin to change as each character who interacts with the ladies comes to realizations about their lives as the ladies themselves do, as well. Delia Ephron, like her late, great sister Norah, is a divine storyteller, a writer whose prose seems to flow effortlessly into a seamless plot. In reading books from either, you don't realize you've been captivated by the characters and engrossed until you're two-thirds of the way through the novel and you look up and realize that the day is almost over, and you've done nothing but delve into the book, intending to read only a chapter or two. Like Norah, Delia has also written award-winning movie scripts, and that would account for the flawless dialog that peppers her novels, making the characters seem so real you almost feel you've met them and had a conversation with them before you picked up the book. The HEA is quite satisfying, as is the warmth and humor that pervades this enchanting novel. I'd recommend it to those who like chick lit in general and stories about women and second chances.  A solid A of a novel.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Finally Found Books Opens in Black Diamond

Hurrah, Finally Found Books opened yesterday in Black Diamond, WA, during its annual Miner's Day celebration, attended by myself and my son, Nick. I will say that I only purchased 3 books, (costing a mere $16 for all three) which was very restrained of me, considering I was surrounded by rooms full of stacks of books I'd not perused before. Nick had a free cupcake and some ice cream, and we went to several garage sales, too.  It was heartening to see so many of my neighbors at the new bookstore, because we all need to work together to make this community store a success!

Todd Hulbert is opening Finally Found Bookshttp://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13832757, a used and
new bookstore, in Black Diamond, Wash., tomorrow, according to the Maple
Valley Reporter.

Hulbert bought Baker Street Books earlier this year (Shelf Awareness
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13832758, April 27,
2012) and closed it April 30 to install new shelving, reconfigure the
store and absorb some 100,000 volumes that he had in storage. The new
store has added categories and subcategories of fiction, increased
sections with textbooks, religion, self-help, parenting, travel, how-to,
home improvement and biography as well as added more children's, teen
and YA titles.

Here's my Summer Book Wishlist:
Scones and Bones, Laura Childs
Goodbye For Now, Laurie Frankel
Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness
Jesus' Son, Denis Johnson
Dragon Ship, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Between the Lines, Samantha Von Leer
Cone Name Verity
Stoner, John Williams
Shout Her Lovely Name, Natalie Serber
The Lion Is In, Delia Ephron
Chapman's Odyssey, Paul Bailey
The Prisoner of Heaven, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In other news, summer has finally arrived in Maple Valley, and we are sweating and hoping for a return of rain already.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tin Swift, RIP Norah Ephron, and Downton Abbey

 Rest in peace, Nora Ephron, one of my favorite writers. Her work was infused with wit and charm. We shall not see her like on earth again.

Nora Ephron, http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz13750729
essayist, novelist, humorist, journalist, playwright, Oscar-nominated
screenwriter and movie director "in the Dorothy Parker mold (only
smarter and funnier, some said)," died last night, the New York Times
reported. She was 71.

A Facebook post from Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books
observed that Ephron "brought an awful lot of people a tremendous amount
of joy. She will be sorely missed." Her books include Heartburn, Crazy
Salad, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing.

Ephron also wrote and directed You've Got Mail, the 1998 movie that
centered on an online romance between Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen
Kelly (Meg Ryan). Fox worked for his family's Fox Books, a major chain,
and Kelly owned a children's bookstore in New York City that was
suffering because of a new Fox Books that opened around the corner. For
a time, neither knows the true identity of the other online persona.
Much of the movie was filmed on location, including a faux Fox Books
branch in the old Barney's store on Seventh Avenue and 17th Street.

I can hardly wait for season 3 of Downton Abbey on PBS, especially since the delightful Shirley MacLaine will be on the show as Lady G's mother and the girls grandmother. I imagine she will bring all her sass and spice to the scenes with the fabulous Maggie Smith!

Shirley MacLaine was honored by the American Film Institute recently with a
life-achievement award. As Elizabeth McGovern spoke about MacLaine's
upcoming role on Downton Abbey's third season, she shared the first
official look at her on-screen mother
"going head-to-head" with the always delightfully intimidating Maggie
Smith. "Is it 2013 yet?" asked Entertainment Weekly.

I watched the first installment of this movie and didn't find it awful at all, so I am thrilled they are making a sequel...John Gault lives! (I read all of Ayn Rand's books as a teenager, and loved them).

"What happens when your first movie dies at the box office, gets savaged
by critics and makes barely a blip on the cultural radar? If you're
producers John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow, you spend even more money on
the sequel, cross your fingers and hope for the best," Indiewire noted
in featuring a teaser trailer for the second installment of the film
adaptation of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged
The movie will be released October 12.

Tin Swift, the sequel to Devon Monks wonderful Steampunk fantasy Dead Iron, was quite a roller-coaster ride through the wild west, with airships powered by steam and 'glim' and unusual weaponry, plus the reappearance of Mr Shunt and his strange undead minions.
Cedar Hunt, his brother the werewolf Wil, Rose, Mae and the crazy Madder brothers set off in search of the infamous "Holder" a weapon that has the power to unmake the world in the wrong hands. They are also bound to head to Kansas to take Mae back to her witches coven so she can be unbound to them and they will stop trying to make her insane every time she uses a spell.
Along the way, Rose gets caught by a bomb set by Mr Shunt, and a piece of the Holder is lodged in her shoulder and promises to kill her, just when she's met the love of her life, Mr Marshall Lee Hink, steamship pilot and 'president's man'. Meanwhile, Cedar and Mae finally express their feelings for one another and the adventurers end up fighting their way out of a mountain fortress. All in all, an exciting, fascinating book that has to be devoured in one sitting. Devon Monk knows how to tell a tale to keep pages turning long into the night. Great stuff. A well deserved A!